For The Love Of Organics: Cranberries

They each made it with a twist: one with pineapple, the other added vanilla, and sometimes a dash of bourbon. Cranberry sauce, grandma’s special recipe—it was a tradition to be enjoyed once or twice a year, with the whole family gathered around the table. The deliciously unique flavor of each version is evocative of the woman herself, a memory that lives on with every subsequent rendering of the recipe.

It’s effortlessly nostalgic—the cranberry, a yearly reminder of holiday seasons past and present, but what impact does its journey to the festivities have on the planet?


For The Love Of Organics: Cranberries

Unanswered Questions From The Cranberry Bog

In Wisconsin and Massachusetts, the two top cranberry-producing states, thousands of red berries float in flooded beds waiting for harvest in the fall.1 2 The whimsical imagery invites many a road trip along Wisconsin's "Cranberry Highway" or to Cape Cod.3 4 However, this unusual harvest technique, using water to separate the berries from their vines, also raises the question of synthetic pesticide and fertilizer pollution in local waterways.5 6 Although a conclusive answer is hard to find, this much is true: farmers must release the water used in the cranberry harvest back into the environment. And several studies over the past decade indicate that it may carry a significant load of toxic agricultural chemicals with it.7 8 9

A 2014 VICE News article cites a Wisconsin study finding that pesticide concentrations downstream from cranberry marshes were enough to cause “total mortality in two species of test organisms,” which has alarming real-world implications. In 2018, the Buzzards Bay Coalition in Massachusetts, citing data from the Massachusetts Estuaries Project, reported that cranberry bogs were responsible for an estimated 20 and 30 percent of nitrogen pollution in two of this cranberry-growing region’s rivers.10 An earlier report noted that where the density of bogs is highest, they could be accountable for up to 50 percent of nitrogen pollution, contributing to oxygen-deprived water where aquatic organisms cannot live.11

No Bees = No Cranberries!

Without bees to pollinate cranberries, every treasured family recipe featuring them vanishes. The fruit depends on the insect for survival, and although honeybees are an indispensable part of the equation, native bees like bumblebees are the most efficient cranberry pollinators.12 13 14 Yet, according to USDA tests, 56 percent of conventional cranberries had residue of the fungicide chlorothalonil, and studies show it may pose a severe threat to bumblebees.15 Researchers from the University of Wisconsin and subsequently Cornell University found evidence that chlorothalonil exposure has a range of negative impacts on native bumblebees. These include the “potential to severely impact their success in foraging,” and being a strong predictor of pathogen prevalence in declining bumblebee species.”16 17 Meanwhile, as of May 2020, the European Union has banned chlorothalonil because of the DNA damaging potential of its breakdown chemicals and its adverse consequences to wildlife.18

A Nutritional Gift

Cranberries are one of the richest sources of polyphenols, a group of plant compounds with potent antioxidant properties, and they’re also a good source of vitamin C.19 Choose organic to maximize nutritional benefits.20 21 A 2014 meta-analysis, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, and analyzing data from more than 300 studies on the subject, found that organic crops outdo conventional in antioxidant content by 20 to 40 percent!22 So here’s to organic, to old and new traditions, and the memories that give them meaning, and to serving the season’s brightest berry with a twist. Happy Holidays!


Margaret’s Awesome Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Want to try one of these special family cranberry sauces for yourself?

We are excited to share Margaret Isely's beloved family recipe with you, and maybe even inspire a new family tradition of your own.




  1. Berman-Vaporis, Irene, et al. “The U.S. Cranberry Harvest Explained in Four Charts.” History, National Geographic, 3 May 2021,….
  2. Shahbandeh, M. “Total Cranberry Production U.S. by State 2020.” Statista, 18 May 2021,….
  3. “Cranberry Highway.” Cranberry Highway | Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association,
  4. “You Need to See These Cranberry Bog Tours on Cape Cod.” Candleberry Inn, 6 Apr. 2021,
  5. Kimble-Evans, Amanda. “Clean up Those Cranberries.” Rodale Institute, 6 May 2019,
  6. “Cranberries.” FoodPrint, 12 Nov. 2019,
  7. “Environmental Impacts of Cranberry Production.” Northwest Wild Foods Raw Healthy Natural, 4 May 2015,
  8. “Cranberries: Bogged down in Water and Pollution.” FoodPrint, 10 Aug. 2020,
  9. “Cranberry Bogs Are Serving up Environmental Destruction.” VICE,….
  10. “New Research Is Unlocking the Nitrogen Secrets Hidden in Different Types of Cranberry Bogs.” Buzzards Bay Coalition, 29 Aug. 2019,….
  11. “Cranberry Bogs.” Buzzards Bay Coalition, 19 May 2016,
  12. Bernauer, Olivia M., et al. “Colonies of Bumble Bees (BOMBUS Impatiens) Produce Fewer Workers, Less BEE Biomass, and Have Smaller Mother Queens Following Fungicide Exposure.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 1 June 2015,
  13. Spivak, Dr. Marla. “What Can You Do To Improve Cranberry Pollination.” Https://, 2011,
  14. “U.S. Forest Service.” Forest Service Shield,….
  15. Network, Pesticide Action. What's on My Food :: Pesticides on Cranberries,
  16. “Fungicides Tied to Declining Bumblebee Populations in the United States.” Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog, 5 Dec. 2017,
  17. McArt, Scott H, et al. “Landscape Predictors of Pathogen Prevalence and Range Contractions in US BUMBLEBEES.” Proceedings. Biological Sciences, The Royal Society, 29 Nov. 2017,
  18. “What Is THE Chlorothalonil Ban Imposed by the EU?” NS Agriculture, 24 Dec. 2019,
  19. “What's in a Cranberry.” What's In A Cranberry | Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association,
  20. Prasain, Jeevan K., and Stephen Barnes. “Cranberry Polyphenols‐Gut Microbiota Interactions and Potential Health Benefits: An Updated Review.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 30 Dec. 2020,
  21. Neto, Catherine C. “Cranberry and ITS PHYTOCHEMICALS: A Review of in VITRO Anticancer Studies.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Jan. 2007,
  22. Barański, Marcin, et al. “Higher Antioxidant and Lower Cadmium Concentrations and Lower Incidence of Pesticide Residues in Organically Grown Crops: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-Analyses.” The British Journal of Nutrition, Cambridge University Press, 14 Sept. 2014,